Installing CentOS 11.3 64Bit on a Dell Latitude E6500


mlwrst@rochester.rr.com


Description:

This Dell Latitude is a “scratch and dent” machine from Dell. It comes better configured than the standard E6500, and I added a larger hard drive to further improve it.


Caveats:

  1. I am lazy and therefore will often type the least amount of characters to accomplish what I want. In the Notes section below, I sometimes give instructions with conditions attached. If you do not read carefully to check conditions before executing instructions, you may not get the behavior you desire.

  2. The workd “Works” under Status under Linux implies that the normal installation from the DVD provided satisfactory performance. It does not denote that there is no other way to manage a particular aspect of your platform.

Hardware Components

Status under Linux

Notes

Intel Core 2 Duo CPU P8800 2.66GHz

Works

Set BIOS to support virtualization and threading before installing OS. Did not select any open source virtualization software on the installation.


Later, having network and video issues resolved, installed VMWare Workstation. Ran like a charm, supported threading, and allowed switching between VMs with no effort. Have run 2 VMs simultaneously (limit about 1 GB memory/VM) while using CentOS on the host. Reasonable performance.

RAM – 4Gb

Works

Plan to move to 8 for VMs. Allocation to existing VMs seems flawless.

Intel 82567 Gb Ethernet NIC

Works

Good to have a connection when you install from the DVD.

Intel Pro Wireless 5300 AGN

Works with help

  1. At this time, one needs to download the latest firmware code. If you obtain it directly from Intel, complicated. Easier to get iwl5000-firmware-8.24.2.12-1.elrepo.noarch.rpm from http://elrepo.org/linux/elrepo/el5/x86_64/RPMS/ . This is an example of why install should have hardwired internet connection for laptop.

  2. Having done step one successfully, you may choose either NetworkManager (comes installed) or Wicd (you must download). I did the complete install TWICE, because I had a HD fail. First time, I used NetworkManager – easy to use, piece of cake. Second time, had problems with NetworkManager (not sure why). Used Wicd (had to uninstall NetworkManager 1st). Worked fine. Disadvantage – Wicd only supports one network connection. There are solutions (like don't have Wicd manage your wired connection).

Quaddro NVS 160M Graphics

Works with help

If you do not do anything fancy, you can download an opensource version of the NVIDIA driver. If you plan to exercise your graphics card, go to Nvidia and download their installation routine. Currently: NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-260.19.21.run. Get it from here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux-display-amd64-260.19.21-driver.html If you


You must run it as root and must have set the run-level to 1 or 3 (i.e. not GUI environment) to install it. Wait until the normal install is vinished. Then, edit /etc/inittab and change the runlevel (bottom line) from 5 to 3. Next time you boot, log in as root, go to the directory where you saved the file, and run the program. Assuming you have only one file in that folder ending in “.run”, just type the following: ./*.run Otherwise, you must substitute the full name of the file you downloaded (substituted for the “*”).


I have used this with both the single monitor, a separate monitor (laptop display off), multiple monitors (laptop and other monitor), multiple monitors (using docking station). All work fine. The Nvidia driver can be confused, however, and you may have to use the Nvidia software to configure multiple monitors (ex. if the monitors are different resolutions or the projector doesn't support over 1024 x 760). Sometimes the Fn/Monitor keys work. Just don't depend on it. Also, if you want the laptop to remember particular configurations, you have to be root. Don't try saving a setup while you're a normal user.

Liquid Crystal Display 15WU+,2CCFL,Samsung Maybach/Avia

Works

I copied the description from Dell. Basically, it's a 15' display that can support up to 19200 x 1200 PPI resolution. It's part of a dying breed of LCDs that give high-end resolution and do not worry about connecting to a television or displaying something meant for television. Nvidia's drivers worked fine with it.

Intel 82801 (ICH9 family) Audio Controller

Works

Did not try any of the plug in ports, ex. For earphones or speakers, because I don''t care about them.

USB2

Works

Used a variety of connectors (mostly mouse, projector, and keyboard-related). While using a remote mouse, also used Bluetooth through the USB port, no problems.

Alps PS2/DualPort Touchpad

Works

Doesn't get much of a workout though, because I mainly use remote keyboards and mice.

Keyboard

Works

See notes above about touchpad.

Samsung 64Gb Sata2 7200 RPM HD

Works

Swapped out the original HD for this HD. First one started dying immediately after 1st install. Being stubborn, I ordered another one while waiting for RMA. Second one ran flawlessly. I am not a gamer, but do sysadmin, database, and programming activities. The first two (ex. find command or searching multiple tables) can exercise a hard disk pretty well. I have no formal test results, merely the feeling that the drive performs well. It's quiet and quick.

E/Port Plus, 130W Advanced Port Replicator for Latitude E-Family/Mobile Precision

Works

This is a tool for the lazy (i.e. me) – Monitors, power, usb devices, ethernet, and perhaps more stay plugged into this docking station. It works like a charm, I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a mobile computer but doesn't want to have to hold it on their laps. CentOS doesn't know it's there. The logitech RF wireless keyboard and mouse complete the picture. If only I'd managed to produce, market, and sell my mouse-glove, I'd be able to deal with just the keyboard.

Untested Items

?????

Suspend – I do not trust it, haven't tested it, and almost always use a power cord. I believe I have it set to shutdown when the battery is (almost) dead.

Battery

Works

Icon for battery life works out of the box. On the few times when I've used the battery and killed (or almost killed) it, it has warned me. The icon is ever-visible in the upper right of the screen (right next to the Wicd connection icon).

HD Encryption

Works

Ok, this is not hardware. It is an option when you install CentOS. I've done it on openSuse and CentOS, and it works on both. Despite various problems with the original HD and installation issues on the 2nd HD, the encryption key was never affected. This has meant that:

  1. I could do HD recover with fsck when the 1st drive was failing.

  2. Despite serious problems with opensource Nvidia drivers and an inability to get into the Xwindow environment of CentOS, I could still use the encryption key, get in at runlevel 3, and do what needed to be done.


Kernel Version: 2.6.18-194.26.1.el5.centos.plus

Obtained the original kernel from http://mirrors.rit.edu/centos/5.5/isos/x86_64/ at Rochester Institute of Technology


Installation Instructions (assumes installation is to a single-boot environment, on a new or pre-partitioned hard drive):

1. Download the centos 5.5 x85_64 distribution and burn a DVD (unless you're creating a VM and can do so from an .iso file).

2. Set your computer to boot from the DVD drive before the hard drive.

3. Be sure your computer (the one you're installing to) is connected to the internet. If it is not, you can still install from the DVD, but your life is easier if you can download items as you need them. Also, if you want extras while installing, there is not an easy way to get to the optional items DVD, but you can add extra items from the internet (assuming, of course, you are connected).

4. Go with the minimum installation and add more later. This includes the default Gnome display manager. Despite what #3, above, says, it is better to get the basic OS working and worry about bells and whistles later. That means pretty much accepting standard options for the installation. At one point, you'll be asked if you want to partition the hard drive or go with the standard partition. If you have any question about what this means, go with the standard partition. With small exceptions, it will place everything in one large partition. Some OS's (like openSuse) use one partition for system files and one for your stuff. My experience there was that one needed to enlarge the system partition if you like to install a lot of programs (I do). With CentOS, however, everything fits in one big box, minimizing configuration problems.

5. After you have agreed with all of the questions, let CentOS finish its installation and reboot your computer.

6. At this point, everything (except perhaps your wireless network) should be working. You should be able to adjust your video resolution , set your desktop background, etc.

7. Install yumex. At your command prompt, type yum install yumex. This will enhance your software maintenance abilities.

8. Use the Applications/AddRemoveSoftware menu item to update the OS and any additional software you've installed. Before doing this, you might update your software repositories. Which repositories you use depends on what you plan to do with your platform. I will list the repositories I use. You can get further advice from: http://wiki.centos.org/AdditionalResources/Repositories In general, I have found the process of adding repositories to relate 1.) what are the basics; 2.) what else do I need. The process generally is, get the basics and search on google for the files (ex. rpms) for the remainder of my needs. I've pasted my repositories below, but don't take them as gospel. The ones with an address including “centos” have, you may assume, the basics. The others are because of extra things I've wanted.


CentOS-5 – Addons

http://mirrorlist.centos.org/?release=5&arch=x86_64&repo=addons

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-CentOS-5 (you'll get this when you install from DVD)


CentOS-5 – Base

http://mirrorlist.centos.org/?release=5&arch=x86_64&repo=os

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-CentOS-5 (Same as Addons key)


CentOS-5 – Plus

http://mirrorlist.centos.org/?release=5&arch=x86_64&repo=centosplus

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-CentOS-5 (Same as Addons key)


CentOS-5 – Contrib

http://mirrorlist.centos.org/?release=5&arch=x86_64&repo=contrib

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-CentOS-5 (Same as Addons key)


CentOS-5 – Extras

http://mirrorlist.centos.org/?release=5&arch=x86_64&repo=extras

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-CentOS-5

CentOS-5 – Updates

http://mirrorlist.centos.org/?release=5&arch=x86_64&repo=updates

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-CentOS-5


The following are the non-standard repositories

ATrpms

http://dl.atrpms.net/el5Client-x86_64/atrpms/stable/

GPG Key: http://ATrpms.net/RPM-GPG-KEY.atrpms


RHEL 5 - RPMforge.net – dag

http://apt.sw.be/redhat/el5/en/mirrors-rpmforge

file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-rpmforge-dag (Had to get this when adding RPMForge)


RHEL 5 - RPMforge.net – extras

http://apt.sw.be/redhat/el5/en/mirrors-rpmforge-extras

GPG Key: file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-rpmforge-dag

You can read the reference in the table, above, about use of various repositories. You can activate/de-activate repositories plus add more of them by going to /Applications/AddRemoveSoftware and selecting Repositories under the Edit menu item.


7. Then, install the Intel wireless driver (see above, iwl5000-firmware-8.24.2.12-1.elrepo.noarch.rpm ). Before doing so, make sure to read the instructions and check to make sure no iwl5000 drivers have accidentally been installed (Intel wireless 5000 family, which includes the 5300). If they have, after downloading the rpm file, UNINSTALL THEM.

8. Install Wicd. Search for it within /Applications/AddRemoveSoftware. To make it work, you have to go to the /System/Administration/Network menu item, and for each device you want controlled by Wicd, uncheck the “Activate Device When Computer Starts” box. You will be particularly interested in doing this for your wireless networking. Presuming you have no other software dependent upon traditional networking, you can turn it off and set it so it will not start upon rebooting (the following assumes you are using sudo or are acting as root):


service network stop

chkconfig network off

chkconfig wicd on

service wicd start


The last two commands sets wicd to start upon reboot and actually start the service right now. You do not have to wait for a reboot. In the upper right corner of your screen (assuming you're using gnome) you should see a little black double-monitor icon – Wicd! You can click on it and select wired or wireless networks, depending upon your preferences.



9. Once all of the above is working, you can focus on little things like fixing your video drivers. This laptop needs an Nvidia driver. While messing around, I did install the opensource drivers and then uninstalled them. However, the uninstall was incomplete. If you find yourself in a situation where you have opensource Nvidia drivers you need to uninstall, go in search of invalid links that will prevent a successful installation of the Nvidia software. The software, as stated in the table above, needs to be directly downloaded and installed by running an installation program. You want to do this AFTER you've updated all of your OS software because you will have to repeat this process every time your kernel is upgraded. It's not that big a deal, but the Nvidia drivers should be installed when the system is not in runlevel 5 (no GUI desktop). As root, you can edit /etc/inittab – bottom line, change 5 in “x:5:respawn:/etc/X11/prefdm -nodaemon ” to 3. Then, reboot, log in as root, proceed to where you downloaded the Nvidia driver files (currently NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-260.19.21.run), and type ./NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-260.19.21.run. If you get any errors during the installation, I have found them to be clear. Fix whatever is said to be wrong and re-run the installation. Once it says everything is successful, type “reboot” and wait for Nvidia to take over your graphics. You should see the Nvidia screen during bootup.


Overall:

Thus far, I am VERY happy with this laptop. It laps when I only have a lap, but it tops my table, desk, and whatever else when I have remote keyboard, monitor, docking station, etc. It's fast and spacious. CentOS seems to like it very well. If I knew the things that I've told you, above, it would have taken me very little time to configure everything. Good luck with yours, if you choose to get one. As an aside, I also have such a laptop with openSuse (64 bit) installed. I am also very happy with that installation. It also uses Wicd and the Nvidia driver.